Reactions pour in as Budget 2022 announced / Malta News Briefing – Tuesday 12 October 2021

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Times of Malta says the government has not updated its concession agreement with Steward Healthcare, Health Minister Chris Fearne said, as financial estimates issued with the budget speech show a spike in the funds allocated for the running of two hospitals.

MaltaToday reports that the Chamber of Commerce says the cannabis reform Bill is ‘ambiguous’ and lacks safeguards to curb drug use at the workplace.

Newsbook reports that some 25 restaurants and bars have agreed to limit access to fully vaccinated people only, health minister Chris Fearne said.

TVM says that a 42-year old Italian, Vincenzo Maniscalco, who lives in St Paul’s Bay, was acquitted of defrauding Lidl supermarket, together with a female accomplice.

Updated 1250 – Mid-Day Briefing

Reactions pour in as Budget 2022 announced: Most of the social partners appeared to be generally happy with the budget in their initial reactions late on Monday, but the Malta Union of Teachers slammed it for failing to tackle glaring problems in the sector, such as teacher shortage. The General Workers’ Union labelled the budget as ‘socially bold and courageous.’ It praised the budget for including measures improving the quality of life, particularly for workers. The UĦM Voice of the Workers, whilst also praising the budget’s social benefits, complained that there was little emphasis on long-term economic vision. The government had also failed to explain how it would restore Malta’s reputation after its greylisting as a financial jurisdiction by the Financial Action Task Force.

Ombudsman renews call to regulate lobbying: Parliamentary Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud has renewed calls for lobbying in Malta to be properly regulated. In his annual plan presented to parliament last week, the ombudsman said his office had, over the years, drawn attention to the uncontrolled lobbying carried out by big business seeking to advance their interests, particularly in public projects. The problem had again been highlighted in the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry report, the ombudsman noted. 

Covid-19 Update: 17 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday, with 7 virus patients currently requiring hospital treatment. One patient is in the ITU.

Morning Briefing

Budget 2022 takes social, environmental direction

Minister of Finance Clyde Caruana presented his first budget – and the last of this legislature on Monday evening, with a strong emphasis on social and environmental elements. Popular initiatives include the promise of free public transport and the introduction of further tax cuts. A number of greening projects have been announced, as are incentives for investment in clean energy. The greening plans seemingly do not deter Malta’s continuous investment in infrastructure with a number of projects announced, including those financed through the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.

One of the heftiest investments in this regard is the €470 million allocated for industrial estates as well as another conspicuous allocation for new roads. The Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) will increase by €1.75 per week, as per the established formula. This increase will be given to all workers, with over 95,000 pensioners receiving €5.

Budget reflects people’s priorities – Robert Abela

PM Robert Abela said that Budget 2022 reflects the government’s and the people’s prioritie, adding that Government has invested in social justice. Addressing the press after the budget speech, Abela explained: “This evening, we showed that while we remain the most credible force that is able to lead this country, we also believe that progress is not measured in just GDP,” the Prime Minister said. His Deputy Chris Fearne added that “we showed what we can do when we are going through a storm; now we can show what we can do when the sunny weather starts to arrive,” Fearne said.

Abela refused to entertain speculation about the possibility of ean early election being called shortly, dismissing a journalist who opined that this question was on everyone’s lips. Instead, he insisted that Government’s priority was to implement the budget which has just been announced.

Budget lacks vision, says PN

PN leader Bernard Grech said that Budget 2022 was lacking in delivering a future vision for the economy, and does not show the way in terms of government’s direction for key sectors such as tourism, manufacturing and financial services. He noted how government has lumped our country with debt, adding some five billion euro in Malta’s debt levels between 2020 and 2024. Recalling a recent quote by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana that the coronavirus set the country back 1.5 billion, he noted that the rest of excess expenditure was a result of profligacy and corrution.

The Nationalist Party said that young people who wanted to choose their line of studies had no way to find out where Government’s priorities stood. Grech said that the assistance given to persons in need was a pittance compared to the monies wasted on projects such as Vitals and Electrogas and accused Government of asking people to work more to be able to afford the increase cost of living.

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